Imitation amber brooch, 1940s.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Designed by Digby Marton, this Catalin (imitation amber) brooch is in the shape of a cactus. The cactus is in a maroon vase edged with two strips of diamante and is tipped with a yellow flower, posibly made of acrylic. Phenol formaldehyde cast as rods or blocks was machined to create a variety of decorative products in the 1930s, and the low prices brought in by mas production methods enabled manufacturers to create new consumer products. The cast resin, known by the tradename Catalin, could be transparent or opaque, as the long cure time and low temperature did not darken the resin. However, Catalin was esentially unstable, shrinking over a period of years.